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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Suite italienne for Violin and Piano [18.23]
Divertimento for Violin and Piano The Fairy’s Kiss [23.18]
Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano [17.53]
Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from Firebird KC10 [12.20]
Danse Russe for Violin and Piano from Petrushka [3.19]
Bruno Monteiro (violin)
Joo Paulo Santos (piano)
rec. 2019, Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal
ET’CETERA KTC1682 [75.13]

It sometimes seems as if Stravinsky’s standing in the pantheon of twentieth century composers has slipped since his death, almost half a century ago. Concert performances of the three great ballets are still common, as well as some of the operas, but his chamber music seems to have a less secure place in the repertoire. This CD is valuable not least in redressing some of that imbalance, but also in sterling performances of some charming music.

Stravinsky wrote quite a body of music for violin and piano, not least because of his close working relationship with the violinist Samuel Dushkin. Their collaboration, especially intimate for an eight-year period, in the 1920s and 1930s, covered the period in Stravinsky’s career described – much to his annoyance – as neo-classical, when he drew so consciously on older forms and composers, including, notably Pergolesi in Pulcinella. For many listeners, music from this period has an accessibility not always found in the serialism of the 1950s, though the ‘shock of the new’ of the three great Diaghilev ballets often obscured the continuities with past composers.

The charming Suite italienne, in six movements, draws principally on themes from Pulcinella, with the exception of the brief Scherzino. The reduced forces draw our attention to the melodic line as well as to the classical elements. The suite is notable both for its variety and for a distinct rhythmical drive which nevertheless captures some of the character of Pergolesi’s epoch.

Divertimento for Violin and Piano The Fairy’s Kiss, from 1932, is a more substantial work. Today, the original title of the 1928 ballet, is more commonly replaced by the original Le Baiser de la fe. The suite heard here, like the ballet, is an extended homage to Tchaikovsky, but also draws on additional works, including the Humoresque from 3 Morceux (Op.9) and the Nocturne from 6 Pieces (Op.19). Interestingly, the 1934 Suite for Orchestra, essentially is an orchestration of the Divertimento, rather than confining itself to the themes of the original ballet.

Duo Concertant is not directly based on a previous ballet, but the five movements demonstrate Stravinsky’s fascination with earlier dance forms. The influence of Bach is strong. Though everything is restrained, even austere, there is a strong sense of the lyrical. The final movement, Dithyrambe, is remarkable, and I have returned to it several times. Overall, I thought this the most significant work on the disc, in its profundity.

The two final works are essentially virtuoso pieces, which would have delighted original audiences. The programme on this release is the programme toured by Stravinsky and Dushkin, over several years – and it works very well as a programme. The Portuguese Bruno Monteiro and Joo Paulo Santos, neither exclusively chamber musicians, have nevertheless worked together for many years, and their rapport is evident in their confident anticipation and blending of sound. Monteiro’s playing is as pin-point precise as Stravinsky would wish, and his tone has a wiriness and astringency entirely appropriate to this repertoire. There are alternative recordings of the works, notably from Lydia Mordkovich on Chandos (CHAN9756). Especially interesting is a recording of the Duo Concertant, by Stravinsky and Dushkin, in remarkably good sound, from T.E Lawrence’s Record Collection at Cloud’s Hill, available as a download from Trunk Music. Dushkin’s tone is – even in a recording nearly ninety years old – notably more mellow than Monteirom and makes a fascinating contrast.
Production values are high, with good notes by Bruno Monteiro, and a very clear recording.

Michael Wilkinson

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